I recently recognized that I am privileged—that most of us are privileged—in ways that our President is not. Such recognition of my own privilege helped me find more compassion for that underprivileged man.
Here’s how it happened: I recently found myself hooked on a very well-done, in-depth, four-part Netflix documentary called, “Trump: An American Dream.“ It’s a picture-window into his personal history (raised in a mansion in Queens), his view of the world (“some people are predators, some are prey”), and his adult “deal-making” philosophy (“I win when you lose”).
Watching the last episode, it suddenly struck me how truly rich I am, and how impoverished, in very simple ways, this poor rich guy is. I saw how I often experience life’s authentic abundance in ways that in the long run truly matter, nourish and sustain not only me but those around me. I don’t own a private jet or a yacht or tropical island with servants requiring privacy fences. I have never talked with bankers about billion-dollar projects or loans.
Still, I’m rich, privileged.
Watching this documentary, I recognized what riches my ordinary life offered that I would have missed if my destiny had been different.
And with such insight, I was also struck with what the “born rich,” and the famous and powerful, usually miss out on, if they are not careful. To wit:
- Our President has never in his life had the small but genuine privilege of remembering to take out the trash on trash night
- I suspect this man has never been privileged to play, and laughed for hours, at a nickel, dime and quarter poker game with old buddies—a carpenter, a metal worker, a plumber, and a college professor.
- Our tea-totaling President never savors a nightcap, with an intriguing book and the approaching midnight hour
- I suspect The Donald has never had the privilege of a shared laugh with his wife while the two of them made up the guest bed in their guest room on the morning before their guests arrive.
- Has Mr. Trump ever had the privilege of writing a late-night haiku about the beauty of life, with the train whistle sound in the background?
- This President has never had the victorious feeling of getting his backyard fountain to work again, with his own hands, his own shovel and electrical tape, after the fountain’s sudden and mysterious shutdown.
- Has Mr. Trump ever felt the privilege of getting an email from his favorite cousins, announcing they’ll be stopping to visit, just passing through?
- Has our President ever known the privilege of discovering his favorite chocolates on a “two for one“ sale at his neighborhood store?
- I suspect DT does not know the deeply enjoyable privilege of a monthly scrabble game and potluck with old friends
- I suspect he has never had the privilege of a regular, once a week coffee chat with fellow geezers held at the local grocery deli.
- Has he ever had the small joy of checking off the final item on the grocery list at the grocery store, heading for cashier?
- Has he ever felt relief at discovering an empty check-out lane at the grocery store with the cashier waiting for the next customer?
- Does he know the modest comfort, gentle pleasure of seeing the “auto-deposit” of this month’s social security payment?
- Does he know how satisfying it can be to empty the dishwasher?
- I know this President has never been able to say, simply, “good night, love,” to his spouse of forty-five years as she goes one more night upstairs to their shared bedroom.
Watching the documentary, it was clear the man in the White House is not a man like most of us. His life experiences have deprived him of privileges that 98%, even 99% of the men on the planet share every day. Thus, his basic expectations are different. His reality, his priorities are different. He has never, I would wager, mowed his lawn.
Somehow, these insights helped ease my alienation. The America he wants to “make great again” is not the already-privileged life in America that I know and my buddies know, my family knows, that most of us know. He’s never, I would guess, had the privilege of taking out the trash.
Our simple daily pleasure, obligations, privileges are what make life in America, and on this planet, worth living. The privilege of laughing with our kids, our spouses, our neighbors, our long-term buddies. The privilege of making little things work again—the backyard fountain, an oven light, a garden gate.
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Rather than getting “the bigger picture,” it struck me we can find wisdom in getting the “smaller picture.” What’s really important? The relationships we have with the people under the same roof. The relationships we have with people we have worked with, been in business with. The trust we have in each other. Trust that we are, at root, looking out for each other.
Which we are. A long, happy life has convinced me of this: we do indeed look out for each other, when we can, where we can, as a basic life value. This is true “privilege.”
We don’t need, as our President has insisted, a “killer instinct” to get along, to get ahead. “Ahead” meaning more love in our lives, more peace, more good-will and happy camaraderie. Even if we should be President of the United States, if we have not love, have not peace, have not humor, and the simple privileges of life, what have we?
Sometimes, it’s useful for ordinary, everyday people to talk to each other, remind each other, about ordinary things, and what makes life worth living. What makes this life truly privileged. This seems to be one of those times.